New York Hockey: waivers

Why Avery's out, Christensen's in

October, 4, 2011

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Sean Avery was sent packing Tuesday.

As reported Tuesday morning, the New York Rangers intend to waive Sean Avery.

Avery has been locked in a battle with Erik Christensen for the Blueshirts' final forward spot, a battle it appears he has now lost. With Christensen apparently earning the nod, it's worth looking briefly at why the axe fell on the perennial pest.

Avery’s role on the ice was no secret. He was, is and always will be an agitator. While his playmaking skills may be a little underrated, his penchant for provocation was his best asset. But how effective was he? According to the fancy stats at, Avery drew 1.4 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. That’s pretty darn good -- second on the team in fact to Ryan Callahan (1.7). The rate also ties him for 23rd in the NHL among players who appeared in 50 games or more last season.

The only problem, as you may have guessed, is that Avery hurt the Rangers nearly as much as he helped them, personally taking 1.3 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. That nearly puts him in the league’s top 30 for that category as well. And it’s worth noting that ledger is filled largely with enforcers like Jody Shelley and Zenon Konopka.

When you take the bad with the good (and assuming I’ve done my math correctly) Avery only gave the Rangers about an extra power play and a half over the course of the season. Apparently the Rangers thought Christensen provided more than that.

Last season, Christensen outproduced Avery (27 points to 24) in 13 fewer games. But Christensen’s best value comes from the shootout, where he converted a team-high 62.5% of his attempts last season. He sports a 53.5% mark for his career, the best rate of any NHL shooter with 40 or more attempts. His 23 shootout goals are tied for the sixth most all-time.

You only need to look at 2010-11’s season-ending scrape into the playoffs to know how important those extra points in the standings can be. And, given the Rangers’ decision, the team certainly seems to think they look more valuable than a few extra minutes of power play time per season.

Nabokov: 'What's the point?'

January, 24, 2011
As you may have seen already, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun spoke Sunday with recent Islanders’ “addition” Evgeni Nabokov and the veteran goalie says he fully intends to remain at his home in California and not report to Long Island.

From LeBrun’s article:
"I think I'm going to stay home for now, I'm sticking with my decision," Nabokov told from his home in San Jose, Calif. "It's nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It's nothing to do with that. It's just that I'm at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don't see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that."

The article concludes with the goalie voicing his bewilderment as to why the Islanders would make a claim on him.
"I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, 'Wow, what's the point?'''

So what was the point? It was obvious that Nabokov wanted to play for a playoff contender when he signed with Detroit. Moreover, the Islanders’ goalie situation is the least of the issues keeping the club near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. So why bother?

Well, it turns out the Islanders are still, you know, trying to win hockey games. (Incredible, I know.) Was it a long shot that Nabokov would join a team on the outside of the playoff race? Probably. Did it muck things up for both Detroit and Nabokov? Sure seems that way. But this isn't about Detroit and it's not even about Nabokov. Snow was more concerned with how the move would help his team. And here’s how it would do so.

By bringing in Nabokov in the wake of Nathan Lawson’s injury, he could return upcoming 20-year-old netminder Kevin Poulin to Bridgeport, where he could continue his development. Moreover, he could alleviate the minutes of the oft-injured Rick DiPietro without worrying about leaving any mental scarring on Poulin (who has seen 181 shots in about 312 minutes of ice time with the Isles).

And Nabokov comes cheap. The franchise, for better or worse, has decided it’s not going to break the bank on player salaries just yet and the Russian goalie’s $570K contract certainly fits that financial framework.

Was Snow overly optimistic about the situation? Perhaps. Is this a mess at the moment? Yes. But should Snow have just sat on his hands and politely deferred to Detroit? Should he give up trying to get the goalie to report to Long Island? Please.

The Islanders may still be rebuilding, but Snow is still responsible for putting as good a team on the ice as he can. He owes that to the team’s current players. He owes it to their current fans. And heck, it's literally the definition of his job. The move may not have worked out yet, it may never work out, and arguably Snow should have known the outcome before he made the claim, but I don’t think you can fault the effort.

Afternoon Links

Lou makes his move

December, 14, 2010
The New Jersey Devils finally made a significant move to address their point-starved, cap-crunched roster, placing veteran forward Brian Rolston on waivers Tuesday. And given the reaction of GM Lou Lamoriello, it was not a move he at all wanted to make.

Per Tom Gulitti's Fire and Ice blog, Lamoriello stated the move was necessitated by the financial shackles that have constrained the team since the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk this summer. Neither Rolston's play (four points in 15 games this season) nor his attitude contributed to the decision, according to the GM.
“There is no better person in the room, no one with a more positive attitude,” Lamoriello said. “That’s what makes decisions like this so difficult. But I have to make some decisions. I can’t justify the payroll where we’re at with the results we’ve had and this is one of the decisions.”

With a season and a half remaining on a contract that pays him a little over $5 million per season (according to, it seems doubtful that any team will claim him at full price. If that's the case, Lamoriello said that Rolston will play with the team Wednesday against Phoenix. However, once Rolston clears waivers, the team will have the option of placing him in the minors and relieve themselves of his $5M cap hit, a huge windfall for a team that has been flush against the cap ceiling all season long. (I forgot Rolston's contract is a 35+ deal, meaning the Devs won't lose his cap hit even in the minors. Thanks to E.J. Hradek for the quick correction.)

The threat of playing in the minors, from which Rolston may never emerge given his albatross-like contract, may help convince the forward to waive his no-trade clause though, allowing Lamoriello to get some kind of return for him. I wouldn't be surprised to hear Rolston's name floated in a few trade rumors in the next few days. If he's placed on re-entry waivers, teams will be able to claim him for half-price and the Devils will have to pay the other half of his salary. And for what it's worth, the estimable Hradek believes the Devils wouldn't even hint at sending Rolston to Albany, as treating a well-liked vet in such a way could hurt them with future free-agent signings.

Staal signs; Redden all but done?

September, 16, 2010
The Rangers have signed Marc Staal to a five-year contract extension with a cap hit of $3.975, ensuring one of the league’s best young defensemen will skate on Broadway through the 2014-15 season.

With the signing, the Rangers’ currently sit a little over $4 million over the cap ceiling as training camp begins. Though it has been rumored all summer, it now appears inevitable that defenseman Wade Redden -- who carries a $6.5M per season cap hit by himself -- will enter camp assured of being placed on waivers and demoted from the team.

With Staal back on board and Redden likely gone, the stage is set for a camp showdown for the final two defensemen spots on the Ranger roster. It is thought that Staal, Michal Rozsival, Dan Girardi, and Michael Del Zotto already have the top four slots locked up, leaving the battle for Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy, rookie Ryan McDonagh, AHL veteran Mike Sauer and camp invitees Garnet Exelby and Alexei Semenov.

Camp officially begins tomorrow for veteran players, though many have already arrived at MSG Training Center.

Morning Links
  • Jesse Spector of the Daily News has more on the Staal signing, as well as the increasing expectations for Girardi after he re-upped this summer.
  • The people have spoken and want to waive Redden in order to get under the salary cap following the Staal signing, according to the unscientific Twitter poll conducted by Spector. The scibe notes that the only teams that could even afford Redden’s gargantuan contract under the cap are the Islanders, Thrashers and Avalanche. I made this point earlier when talking about the Devils’ trade candidates following the Kovalchuk signing: Just because a team has cap space, don’t assume their willing to spend it on an abysmal contract. (FWIW Spector isn't implying the interest of those teams, just the available cap space.) Redden’s deal is almost universally regarded as the worst in the NHL.
  • Blueshirt Banter uses advanced metrics to see how Redden’s removal will impact the defense.
  • Larry Brooks asked Redden’s agent if he’s been in contact with European teams as an alternative to Hartford, but he declined comment.
  • Henrik Lundqvist guarantees the Rangers will make the playoffs this season.
  • The Rangers' prospects closed out the Traverse City Tournament with a 7-2 shellacking of the Stars. Seven different players scored for the Blueshirts, including top prospects Derek Stepan and Evgeny Grachev. The production from those two has to be encouraging to the talent evaluators of the scoring-starved big-league club.
  • SNY Rangers Blog summarizes Lundqvist's Wednesday interview on WFAN.
  • Alexei Semenov is just happy to be here, per Ranger Rants.